Iphone tips

Don’t Forget the Rules of Composition

The composition is also a crucial ingredient to great iPhone photography. Here are a couple of examples where the rules worked very well. There is a great tool on the iPhone, and it is the grid feature. These lines exemplify the Rule of Thirds. They divide your composition into horizontal and vertical lines. You can place a subject along any line. Or where the lines intersect (visual hotspots). The pine tree is placed on the 1/3rd left vertical line. By placing it there, the other 2/3rds of the scene are the background. This approach creates scene depth. The diagonal lines of this stairway create a Z pattern, allowing our eyes to follow it to the top of the picture. This line on a dock has a leading line composition. It forces the viewer to follow the line to the distance. Positioned in a 1/3 hot spot within the composition, this green plant gets more attention. It draws the viewer to the plant surviving in a harsh environment.

Use the Available Light

Mastering all the settings is necessary for creating great photography with iPhone. But you have to keep in mind the creative side as well. Great lighting and composition are also important when you wish to tell a story with your iPhone photos. Outdoor natural light is defined by Quality, Quantity, Direction, and Colour. The quality of light often includes how soft or hard the light is. Quantity relates to brightness. Lots of light results in brightness, while darker conditions have less available light. Direction defines the angle the light is coming from. Colour is very simple: the colour of the light. An overcast day outside produces very soft light. But a cloudless sky at sunrise will create light with a lot of contrast. Harsh, late afternoon sunlight was perfect for the scene below for several reasons:

  • The scene consists of highlight areas with a few shadow areas.
  • The light is very directional coming from the side, which helps define the textures in the scene. Backlight coming through the door of this historic jail cell creates a lot of contrast. This results in many bright tones and dark tones with limited mid-zones. Side lighting works very well when you wish to emphasise fine details. Here, the texture of the rusting metal, bolts, and seams is enhanced. Side lighting makes this old mining equipment stand out. The colour of light is often most notable at sunrise or sunset, where the light turns very golden. This creates a warm and fuzzy impression. Cool or cold light is often blue in tone and can create the impression that the temperature is cold outside. For this beach scene in Belize, the amber colour of the scene provides that warm tropical feel.

Create HDR Photos on Your iPhone

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. On IOS devices, the camera takes three exposures: light, dark, and normal. Then it blends them together to create an image with more detail throughout the highlights and shadows. This is a very valuable feature. Use it when photographing high contrast scenes with dark shadows and bright highlights. Let’s look at these two photos. Comparing these two photos, you can see the obvious difference. The left image has no HDR applied while the right image is an HDR image. Start by comparing the two columns on the left side. The HDR image is a little greyer than the left image. Same with the beach. The right image seems more of a proper exposure as the sand, people, and sky are a hint darker.

Use ‘View on Map’ to Set the Location

Have you ever captured a photo and later wondered where you took the photograph? It has happened to me many times over the years. But the iPhone has a feature called View on Map. It is quite simple to use. Open your camera roll and find the photo you are wondering about. Once the photo is open, slide up from the bottom, and the map shows up with the location. Adding the location to your iPhone photos can help you to boost your social media presence as well. People often search for images that were captured at a specific location.

Use the Flash in Shade

Adding Flash to your subject can be very useful in some situations. The iPhone flash is not very powerful, so its usefulness is limited to a few feet. In bright sun, the flash does not do so well. But in the shade, it can be a different story. If you look at these wildflower photos, you can see on the left the photo with no flash. On the right, I added a flash fill. The flowers are brighter while the background stays more or less the same.

Adjust the Exposure in a Manual Way

The iPhone’s metering is, for the most part, automatic. Average scenes with average lighting may have correct exposure. But there may be times where the iPhone falls short. Adjusting exposure is quite easy and can make a huge difference in the photos. This full tonal range image is easy to meter and expose. Here is a scene I chose due to the high contrast of backlighting. This exposure is the iPhone’s average metering. It preserved some shadow detail and highlight detail. While that is what it is designed to do, it feels too dark. That makes it a perfect image for using the spot metering feature. Wherever you tap on the screen to set focus, you also are choosing that spot to meter exposure. I clicked on the shadows of the tree trunk. The result was an adjusted exposure for better shadow exposure. This is a good approach for selecting zones that need a change in exposure. But it won’t work for everything. In that case, you can adjust the global brightness with the exposure slider. Start by tapping on the screen where you will see the Sun symbol next to the yellow box. The sun symbol is the slider to adjust exposure so slide the symbol up or down to lighten or darken. The image below is a perfect example of adjusting global exposure. There are high contrast lighting and deep shadows in the rear. The camera exposure was off quite a bit. It compromised to maintain detail in shadows and some highlights. To get a correct exposure, I used the sun slider. I darkened the whole image until the highlights were set to proper exposure. This created a darker background, but that is okay since the subject is the flowering plant.

Experiment safely with filters

You’ve probably already played around a lot with the filters you can apply when taking photos on your iPhone – if not, you access them by tapping on the three overlapping circles icon in the top right corner of the Camera app. If you’re indecisive like me, it’s often hard choosing the right filter… and then you get another pang of indecisiveness after taking the picture that you wish you’d chosen another. However, all is not lost! Even though the filter looks like it’s been applied permanently in the Camera Roll, the iPhone has actually saved the original photo, which can be accessed (and further edited with another filter) just by tapping the ‘Edit’ button. This goes for the Light, Color and B&W controls too – everything has been applied ‘non-destructively’ – i.e. you’re free to swap and change the effect after you’ve shot the photo. You could also try one of the many apps that turn photos to paintings – converting your latest iPhone snap into a work of art could be just one click away!

Experiment with backlight

If you’re into photography, you’ve probably heard more than once that you shouldn’t point your camera towards the source of light. Well, rules are made to be broken :-) As long as you know them in-depth, you can purposefully break them – there’s nothing which will guarantee a more intriguing photo. Backlight can really create an amazing atmosphere in your images, it’s also great for emphasizing outlines and forms. If you haven’t tried it – you should definitely experiment! Next time the sun is out and coming in from an angle (early or late in the day works best), compose your shot, then slowly move your iPhone so the sun creeps in to your shot. Pro Tip: if your iPhone allows you to adjust your aperture (or you’re using a camera app that does), experiment with ‘stopping down’ – i.e. making your aperture smaller. This can create some unusual effects with the light flare.

Use 3D Touch to jump to get a camera headstart

If you have any iPhone newer than (and including) the 6s model, you can take advantage of something called ‘3D Touch’ – basically a forceful tap/press of your finger on the screen to evoke other options. By pressing down harder on the icon for the Camera app on your iPhone screen, you’ll get the option of jumping straight to slo-mo, video, selfie or regular photo mode. No doubt in a future update of iOS, we’ll be given even more 3D Touch options, which will further extend its capabilities.

Post-process your photos for maximum impact

This one is closely related to exploring the opportunities which the third-party editing apps give. I often use the VSCO Photo & Video Editor app and RNI films to tweak my photos and to add a bit of atmosphere. They both offer a wide variety of filters which are also customizable so you can always play with the opacity of the filter itself or simply get rid of the green tint you don’t like in the shadows. These editing apps also make it possible to additionally adjust contrast, saturation, white balance, vignetting and a few other handy things.

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